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Devotion: Labyrinth

Special thanks to Leah Bergman, a soprano in the NLC, who shared this devotion with the choir prior to rehearsal on August 1, 2016. Leah will be leaving the NLC after the choir's trip to New Orleans for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Although we will miss her dearly, we wish her all the best on her new journey in Iowa.

As many of you know, my life has changed significantly since the last time I saw you all. On June 10th, I moved down to Iowa City, Iowa, my hometown, to start a new full-time position as the Minister of Worship, Music, and Children’s Programs at First Presbyterian Church. 

My Mom retired from this church after almost 20 years service and I am taking over her job. This is not just a huge transition for me and my life, but a time of transition and change for the church as well.

Devotion: Philosophy of Music 107 - Jambalaya and Jazz

This devotion was given by NLC bass section member, Dave Michel. Dave shared this prior to rehearsal last week, as the choir prepared for their trip to New Orleans (which is where they are now!). Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @NLChoir or #myNLC to see what the choir has been up to in the Big Easy.

This is Philosophy of Music 107. I am your instructor, Mr. Michel (M-I-no T-C-H-E-one L).

Many of you have taken my Philosophy of Music 101 class, which was about paradox - paradox in music, spirituality and life. You might recall that the concept of "now" is a beautiful paradox ("now" - oops, its already in the past), and Martin Luther's statement "simul justus et peccator" - "simultaneously saint and sinner"- which illustrates our inherent Christian contradiction condition (sounds like an episode title from Big Bang Theory).

Devotion: Singing Gatha

As our singers gather for their first rehearsal since April, alto section member Jenny Kelley shares a devotion about mindfulness.
I read a wonderful story about an ordained Buddhist dharma teacher, Cheri Maples, who served in criminal justice for 25 years. She attended a mindfulness retreat in 1991, which she applied to her work as a police officer, policing with more compassion and openness. Cheri went on to lead mindfulness retreats for others in law enforcement and others in high-stress work. One technique of mindfulness that Cheri and other dharma teachers is to use a Gatha before any activity.

Devotion: An Orchestra Kid Stumbles into a Choir

Colleen Cook, an alto in the National Lutheran Choir, shared this devotion prior to rehearsal on April 19, 2016. She connects the singing she was required to do at St. Olaf with the singing she had done all her life. It's a Minnesota tradition!

I’m standing before you today as an orchestra kid. This Minnesota choral tradition we’re celebrating? Yeah, I had no idea how big of a deal it was, or that it was a deal at all, until maybe five years ago. I went to St. Olaf because I liked the food, it looked like Hogwarts, and the orchestra director was nice to me. Someone mentioned St. Olaf’s Christmas Fest to me, and I thought, “Aw, cute! I love Christmas concerts!” I was totally blindsided by the approximately twelve million hours of rehearsal. I still get Larry Fleming and Kenneth Jennings mixed up in my head on occasion. My first major interaction with Lutherans at all was going to St. Olaf and being moderately aware of the people around me.

Devotion: A Tool in the Hand

National Lutheran Choir alto section member, Jenny Kelley, gave this devotion prior to rehearsal on April 12, 2016. It seems fitting to share after this past weekend, filled with memories of the beginnings of the choir and the man with the vision, Larry Fleming.

As a music major at Augsburg College, I studied conducting with Larry Fleming, the founder of The National Lutheran Choir. Though I found him a bit intimidating while singing with the Augsburg Choir, as a teacher he was very mentoring, guiding us through the skills it takes to be a good choir conductor. While I am not as gifted as Larry, Dave Cherwein, or the great conductors who lead our NLC Tune-ups, I became a competent conductor and went on to lead children’s choirs at various churches. Whenever I would work with the choir kids, I would hear Larry’s voice and feel him in my hands, and his teaching stayed with me. 

Devotion: Holy One

This devotion was given by NLC tenor, Jonathan Flak, prior to the March 8, 2016 rehearsal.
Holy One, untamed by the names I give you.
This is the opening line of a prayer posted on our church bulletin board by Roger, a member of my church.  In that honest admission he names a common human failing that goes back to the Garden of Eden:  to tame and manage God, to put God in a box, to create God in image of our choice.  

Devotion: Inside Out

This devotion was given by NLC soprano, Katherine Castille, prior to our tour concert in Ames, IA on February 20, 2016. Katherine takes a look at an emotion we all feel but are often too hesitant to talk about, especially when it has to do with God.
This is a bulletin from St Philip the Deacon's Ash Wednesday Lenten service. It says that for the 5 weeks of Lent, they'll explore the bible's emotions. Guess what the emotions are... sadness, fear, joy, disgust, and anger. Guys ... We're back to Inside Out. We've talked about joy and sadness and fear. That they each have a purpose, and that they are parts of our whole humanness.

Devotion: Just Do It

Where does it begin – making a decision? Today's devotion comes from bass section member, Dave Michel. Dave shared this devotion prior to the choir's performance in Peoria, IL on February 19, 2016.

You know the feeling when you wake up and it’s cold outside, but it’s warm in bed and you’re really comfy? Maybe it’s a day when you don’t have any time pressures and there’s nothing demanding that you get up right away. When do you get up? How do you decide when to get up? Under the covers, not wanting to move (maybe for a long time), and then, suddenly, you’re up. What makes you come to that decision to get up at that particular time? For that matter, what really is a decision, anyway?

Devotion: Left Brain vs. Right Brain

This devotion comes from Sara Langworthy, a soprano in the National Lutheran Choir. Sara shared this devotion prior to the choir's first tour performance on February 18, 2016 in Mequon, WI. In this somewhat "scientific" devotion, Sara describes what it physically and mentally takes to sing and, in doing so, how meaningful connections are made across time and space. 

It’s come time for me to debunk a myth about the human brain…again. You didn’t know you were coming to a neuroanatomy lecture today, but, as we’re on a college campus, it seems appropriate.

I’m sorry to shatter your illusions, but the whole right brain vs left brain distinction? IT IS NOT A THING.

Devotion: Trust

Last week, the National Lutheran Choir traveled around the Midwest sharing a program of "Psalms and Spirituals." One of our bass sections members, Matt Olson, shared this devotion with the choir. How do you define trust? And how do you apply that definition to the people and communities of people in your life?

2015 was a year busy year in the business world for mergers and acquisitions! Many of you know the company I work for wasn't left out in this fury of activity. Our company of 40-ish people was acquired last March by a Fortune 150 multinational corporation of 65,000 people. The integration process over the last year has certainly been an educational experience!

Devotion: Keep Singing!

Jenny Kelley, a member of the National Lutheran Choir's alto section, shared this devotion with the choir prior to rehearsal on February 9, 2016. Today, as they embark on a Midwest Tour, may they be reminded how their music connects deeply and often takes the listener to another place, or perhaps a fond memory. As a wise teacher once said, "Keep singing!"

Devotion: Growth and Transformation

This week's devotion was given by NLC alto, Emily Skoblik. Although we don't have her full devotion (she likes to wing it), she did share the prayer with us. Thank you, Emily!

Prayer for Growth and Transformation

Father God, our words are too small to contain you, our thoughts too small to comprehend you. In the silence of our hearts we contemplate your beauty, acknowledge your power, admire your wisdom and rejoice in your love. You always have new gifts to impart us, new wonders to reveal to us, new joys to fill our hearts with. 

Devotion: Fear

This week's devotion was given by William Mills, a member of the tenor section in the National Lutheran Choir. First, let's define FEAR: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Sound familiar?

We are very complicated animals. We have evolved with emotions and desires that have helped us form successful communities all over the world. We have developed technology so far beyond the understanding and scope of a single individual that none of us can even begin to describe the gadgets that we currently have on our bodies. While we currently live in a time of war, violence and disease, it is the most peaceful time in recorded history.

Devotion: Out with Resolutions, In with Resiliency!

On January 12, the choir gathered to rehearse for the first time in 2016. Sarah Koepp, a member of the National Lutheran Choir's alto section, shared this devotion with the choir prior to rehearsal. Resiliency is the new Resolution.
Ahhhh ... New Year’s. I saw many articles this new year about not setting resolutions. Sort of a boycott on resolutions. And I have to say I sort of agree! I’m just never very good at them. I should resolve to unsubscribe to the many junk emails I seem to be on. And I should resolve to be better about helping my kids figure out how to keep track of their school library books….but those things may or may not happen in 2016. Instead of Resolutions, I’ve been intrigued with Resiliency -- a buzz word right now. 

Devotion: All Shall Be Well

This devotion was given by Diane Fleming, wife of the late Larry Fleming, founder of the National Lutheran Choir, prior to the choir's performance at the Basilica of Saint Mary on December 12, 2015. Diane joins the choir each December, as a member of the Liturgical Party for the Christmas Festival concerts in Minneapolis. This year's program was titled, "The Spotless Rose."

Fear.  It's anxiety producing.......It lives in darkness......It immobilizes......It suffocates........It clenches fists and closes hearts.......  It is void of hope.

To calm our anxieties.......  to light up our free us up.......  to give us relax our hands and open our hearts..... to instill hope....

God sends His son.

Devotion: Praying Through Music

Prior to last week's rehearsal (11/17/15), NLC alto Hope Kelsey shared this devotion about praying through song. Is it a "Sound of Music" week for you? Or maybe "Amazing Grace" has been running through your mind?

Every other year, [my employer] holds a big sales meeting, which happened to be the first part of last week. It is a time of networking and education - so among other things, many well known speakers are brought in to share insights to the attendees, which add up to about 1600 people or so.

The first big speaker on Monday morning was Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.  I was thrilled that we were starting off with him, using music to talk about the concepts from his book, The Art of Possibility.  He radiated this positive energy and made everyone understand and love Chopin - and helped everyone sing the most rousing version of “Happy Birthday” that I’ve heard for some time.

Devotion: Forgiveness

This devotion was given by new NLC member, Keyla Christenson. Keyla shared this devotion prior to rehearsal on November 10, 2015.

This devotion is more of a meditation, so stick with me. Take one of the gem stones that are going around in the jars. Hold that stone in your hand, rolling it around delicately. Feel the smooth surfaces. Now, picture an event or a person in your life that has caused you hurt, pain, regret, or hardship. Perhaps, you picture something you personally have done that you wish you hadn’t. Whatever comes to mind that plagues your thoughts, put it inside that stone. Did the stone become a lot heavier all of a sudden? Our regrets can weigh us down and burden us more than we could ever believe.

Devotion: What does it taste like?

This devotion was given by one of our sopranos, Sarah Bane, prior to rehearsal on November 3, 2015.

About a month ago, one of the pastors at the church I work at asked if I'd help him with the First Communion class we offer on a monthly basis for the young ones in our congregation who are ready to start partaking in the Lord's Supper. I'd never helped with a First Communion class, and before saying "yes" I probably should have asked more questions. Thinking I'd take notes on a white board, help act out the story of Jesus, and in general just be a support to the pastor, I instead learned right before the class started that I was to take a group of 1st through 3rd graders to our chapel, by myself, to teach them about this holy sacrament. Yikes!

Devotion: Gratitude

This devotion was given by NLC Choir President, Michael Olsen, whose daughter recently got married. The piece Michael references, "I Lift Up My Eyes," was commissioned by David Salmi, who passed away on October 21, 2015. The choir will sing this piece at both All Saints concerts, November 1 and 6.

Marriage, and other rituals in which we participate, such as baptisms and funerals, bring out in me a powerful sense of gratitude. Gratitude that things went better than I had imagined, even if half of the house was supposed to be newly sided, but instead half of it was either exposed plywood or partially house-wrapped in Tyvek. Gratitude for the unseasonably beautiful weather. Gratitude for family and friends. Gratitude for wonderful new in-laws. Really. Well, mostly. But also, gratitude for the time we got to have with loved ones lost. Gratitude for life lessons learned the hard way. Gratitude for our comings and goings being watched over.

Devotion: #Blessed

NLC tenor, Tony Spain, shared this devotion with the choir prior to rehearsal on October 20, 2015. The title of this year's All Saints concert is "Blessed Are They."

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be “Blessed.” I think it was brought on by my recoiling anytime someone on Facebook ended a post with #blessed. 

“New promotion at work! #Blessed”

“Look at these pictures of our brand new house! #Blessed”

“Look at this cute thing my happy, healthy, well-provided-for kids did! #Blessed”

The new "blessed" language seems at odds to the beatitudes. Blessed are the poor, the meek, and those who mourn. The persecuted and the defamed? So which is it? 

Devotion: It's Only Words

This devotion comes from one of our long-time choir members, Tim Sheie. Tim shared this devotion at one of the first rehearsals of the new season, on September 22, 2015.

The Lord be with you. As we begin yet another busy season and new members introduce a few even-newer members, I’d like to  talk about communication – communication of the text of our music—but more importantly our communication with each other.

Devotion: "We Sing with Joy"

Kate Tripoli shared this devotion during rehearsal earlier this week (September 29, 2015). Kate is a soprano in the National Lutheran Choir.
A couple of rehearsals ago, as we were working on “How Great Are Thy Wonders,” David [Cherwien] made an offhand comment that the opening line, “We sing with joy” isn’t about some woman named Joy. And it made me think of Inside Out, the new Pixar movie from this summer. Inside Out is two stories in one. One story is about Riley, an 11-year-old girl whose parents move the family from Minnesota to California, uprooting her from her life and everything that defined her. The story inside that story is about Riley’s emotions, who appear as sort of people operating the control room of Riley’s mind. Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sadness…and Joy. Riley has always been known as the “happy girl,” because Joy has been unofficially in command of the other emotions, while Sadness gets put in a corner and isn’t allowed to touch anything. The upheaval in Riley's life caused by the move sends Joy and Sadness on a journey together throughout Riley’s entire inner being—her memories, her self-image, her subconscious—and gradually Joy realizes that Sadness is not something to keep locked up. Sadness and Joy have to work together to help Riley become a whole and healthy person, because it is Sadness that makes Joy truly powerful.

Devotion: Telling the Story

Katherine Castille, a member of our soprano section and Choir Representative to the Board, shared this devotion with the choir prior to the final concert of our 2014-15 season. The choir gloriously sang Alexander Gretchaninoff's "Passion Week" at Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester, MN, as part of their 150th anniversary celebration.

The theme for our gala this year was “Telling the Story.” The invitation read, “Join us as we tell the story of the National Lutheran Choir -- and celebrate the story that the NLC tells.” So I’ve been thinking about stories lately, why they’re important, why we should tell them. Like songs, they’ve been used in pretty much every culture to entertain, teach and recount histories.   

Devotion: PASSION defined

Prior to our concert at the Basilica on April 30, NLC soprano section leader, Linda Armstrong, gave this devotion before the choir. 
Recently we heard some biographical information about Alexandre Gretchaninoff in our devotion time. Some … but not a lot. Because there isn’t a lot. I Googled Gretchaninoff and found about three paragraphs about his life and works.  I checked for books about him at Barnes and Noble… such thing.  There are many books about JS Bach, and he wrote passions on St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. John.  I can’t figure out why we don’t know more about Gretchaninoff and his life. 

Devotion: Embrace Silence

Last week's devotion, prior to rehearsal on April 21, 2015, was brought to the choir by NLC tenor section member, Ian Cook. Take a moment to read it, while life continues to hum around you.

I love silence.

As I’m sure many of you are aware by now, I am a very quiet person. Sure, I can talk a lot if the subject is right, but usually I’m content to sit back and listen… so if I haven’t said very much to you yet, don’t worry, it’s not because I don’t like you! You might just have to come talk to me, first. I have found that I learn so much more by listening than I do by talking. I’ve also learned that as soon as I open my mouth, my ears try very hard to close themselves, and I don’t want that to happen. And so I listen.

Devotion: Philosophy of Music 101

This week's devotion was written by NLC bass section member, Dave Michel. Get ready to embrace paradox!

This is Philosophy of Music 101. I am your instructor, Mr. Michel (M-I-no T-C-H-E-one L).

My goal for this class is to identify some distinctive aspects of music as an art form, and explore how music might inform life and spirituality. This course being about philosophy, just about everything I say today will be derivative and based on other's work. This won't surprise those of you who've had any of my other classes - derivative is just another way of saying "relational.” This is not a bad thing.

Devotion: Lean on Me

It’s such a privilege and honor for me to stand with you tonight in my home congregation, to sing in a renewed space that I happen to know every inch of. Zion is approaching its 145th anniversary, and has been a landmark church in an historic community.

"Historical Trauma"

This devotion was given by NLC soprano, Sara Langworthy, prior to rehearsal on February 10, 2015. The choir has been preparing music for its Arizona Tour and upcoming concerts in Minnesota, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

Many of you know that my day job involves working for the University of Minnesota to translate what science tells us about kids and families into usable information for people who work in fields of practice and policy. Recently, I’ve been working on a project creating three short videos on a concept researchers call “historical trauma.”

Devotion: The Heartbeat of the Message

This devotion was shared by NLC soprano Christina Myers before rehearsal on January 20th.

The Heartbeat of the Message

Devotion: Why Was I Given This Day?

This devotion was shared by NLC bass Tim Sheie prior to rehearsal on January 13th.

If you have not already encountered the Irish writer John O’Donohue, I recommend him to you.  From one of his meditations on blessing, let’s set aside tonight’s preparations for a moment, quiet ourselves down and reflect on the day:

Devotions: A Time for Thanks

This devotion was shared by NLC alto Eldri Wittkamper on November 25th, 2014.

It’s that time!  I’ve got my last minute list of preparations for the feast:  Make pumpkin pie & pecan pie and whip up a batch of “powdered pimpernels!”*   Then pack and head to Duluth for Thanksgiving.

Devotion: The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

This devotion was shared by NLC bass Paul Wilson prior to one of the Christmas Festival concerts in Saint Louis on December 20, 2014. 

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

Throughout human existence fear and hope intersect - usually in that order.  One of these intersecting points occurred on Christmas Day in 1914, when the powerless front line soldiers in WWI did something the Great Generals of the time could not: make peace.

And in our own history and the history of our country, we find many of these intersecting points.  Fear; hope. 

Devotion: Slowing Down

This devotion was shared by NLC alto Colleen Schaefle prior to rehearsal on October 7, 2014. 

As some of you know, I’m an elementary music teacher, so I spend my day with little cherubs between the ages of 6 and 11. If you work with kids, you know that sometimes there are warm, wonderful, inspiring moments when you feel like you are the ultimate caregiver for literally every child on this planet, and other moments when you wonder what it’s like to have a job with all grown-ups, and where you don’t hear “booger,” “fart,” or “I’m telling!” nearly so often.

Devotion: God is in the Goosebumps

This devotion was shared by NLC alto Sarah Koepp prior to the All Saints Concert on November 1, 2014. 

I have been thinking about one of our themes for the year, “God is in the goose bumps.”  In other words, what really goes into the intersection between music and life’s holy moments? I’m in a profession where I’ve been blessed to experience many of life’s holy moments.  In fact, a chaplain at the hospital and I often have this discussion together.  He’s putting together a pilot project to make chaplain students more comfortable with singing and he’s asked me to help just sing through hymns as part of a large group.  

Devotion: Christmas is Waiting

This devotion was shared by NLC soprano Kate Tripoli prior to rehearsal on November 4, 2014. 


Devotion: Musical Metaphors

Special thanks to Michael Olsen, a tenor with the NLC, for this devotion from October 21, 2014.

I've heard of 2 musical metaphors for major life transitions:

1) Key changes.

If that's the case, my life will rival any contemporary Christian pop song, as I call them, with numerous and seemingly unnecessary key changes.

2) Symphony movements. (I kind of like this image a little better.) In that case I look forward to the next "Andante" movement to slow the pace of change.

Devotion: Into the presence of God

On September 23, 2014, long-time bass section member, Tim Sheie, shared this devotion prior to rehearsal. 

(addressing the Choir in American Sign Language):

A few of you know that I was teaching deaf students for ten years before my job changed and technology increased and things changed. ASL gives you the amazing ability to use phenomenally expressive language without any sound ... rich meaning without sound.

Devotion: A New Song Together

On Saturday, September 13, 2014, new and returning members of the National Lutheran Choir gathered for their first rehearsal of the 2014-15 season. Tenor section member, and Pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis, Joseph Crippen, led the devotion at the day-long retreat.

It is so good to be back together.

I think I remember a routine Bill Cosby used to have about when he was a kid, going out into the neighborhood at night, and humming a tune.  Because, if I remember right, he said “you need to have your music with you when the monsters are out.”

That’s what you all do for me.  I can sing just fine, but I can’t do by myself what we do together, not even close.  It’s not just that one person singing the tenor part doesn’t sound anything like this choir when we’re all together.  It’s deeper than that.  You sing with me, and I sing with you so we have our music when the monsters are out.  Because together the music we make is so much more powerful and life-changing.

Devotion: You Don't Have to Be Lutheran

The following devotion was shared by Tony Spain, a member of the National Lutheran Choir's tenor section, prior to one of the last rehearsals of the 2013-14 season. Tony describes his personal journey to find God and shares how the NLC is his "church."

This past weekend, I was down at Gustavus for an event and I was talking to someone who is planning to audition for NLC. He told me, “I was raised Lutheran, but I currently find myself in an unknown place when it comes to religion.” I told him that being Lutheran is not a requirement to sing in the choir. We have our tall handsome Catholics, and bright haired Presbyterians, and people who feel closer to God in a drum circle than in a pew. Then strangely, in a small bar in St. Peter, Minnesota, I found these words coming out of my mouth – describing my own faith journey and the integral part the National Lutheran Choir has played in that.

Devotion: To know, and be known

Before the choir's final performance together for the season, at the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis on May 19, 2014, bass Tim Sheie shared this devotion.

From Psalm 139: (the subtitle of the Psalm coincidentally reads: For the director of music. Of David)

You have searched me, Lord, 
and you know me.

Devotion: Cycles and Evolution

On Sunday, May 4, as we completed the cycle of our 28th season, NLC soprano Katherine Castille shared the following devotion with her fellow choir members.

“The world is round which means the place that seems like the end may be the beginning.” - Ivy Baker Priest

Devotion: Honoring a Pure Offering

This devotion was given by the National Lutheran Choir's bass section leader, Paul Wilson, on the evening of April 1, before rehearsal.

Have you ever given an offering to God?  An offering that is so personal, so private, so sacred that it creates a moment in time that can not be adequately explained to another?  An offering purely of humble thanksgiving, shared only between you and the Maker?

Devotion: Joy

This devotion was shared by NLC alto, Mary Kay Knapp, prior to rehearsal on March 18, 2014.

I considered a number of different topics for this devotional, and finally decided to talk about joy (or should I say “choy” to this group!).  It truly has been my joy to sing in the NLC this year, and I thank all of you who have whole-heartedly been a part of this remarkable, joyful year! 

Devotion: Roots

This devotion was shared by Zack Carlson, a first-year member of the National Lutheran Choir's bass section, before rehearsal on January 14, 2014. During this cold, dormant time of year, Zack invites his fellow singers to take time to reflect on their roots.

Devotion: Everyday Epiphanies

This choir devotion was shared by NLC soprano Sarah Bane at rehearsal on Tuesday, January 7, 2014. 

(Light candle to remind us that the Holy Spirit is always present, always revealing.)

Devotion: Pay Attention

On Saturday, December 14, before our final Christmas Festival performance at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Diane Fleming shared this devotion with the choir. Diane is the widow of Larry Fleming, founder of the National Lutheran Choir. She joins the choir every December to partake in the Christmas Festival as a member of the liturgical party.

Devotion: Hodie!

Prior to every performance, the choir gathers together and one of the members shares a devotion. Sometimes the topic is one of the compositions or the text, sometimes it is about centering on what is happening at that very moment. Tim Sheie, a member of the bass section, is frequently called upon to give the devotion. After arriving at the airport in the early hours of Saturday, December 21, 2013, the choir flew to St Louis, Missouri and then boarded buses that took the to Christ Church Cathedral.

2013 Christmas Festival memories

Merry Christmas! ​As President of the National Lutheran Choir board, I often joke about having the awesome powers to compel staff and board members alike to do my bidding. I claim to rarely abuse these powers, but this Christmas I gently insisted that board and staff members share their fondest memories from this year's Christmas Festival.

Devotion: Promise of Peace

At rehearsal on December 3, 2013, in preparation of our upcoming Christmas Festival concerts, tenor Peter Moberg shared a devotion that is both a meditation and a choral history lesson. 

Tonight I have a kind of combination devotion and choral history lesson.  I've shared this story before, but it's been a while.  In fact, the year was 2 BCE (Before the Cherwien Era.)  The occasion was a concert at Orchestra Hall under the direction of Karl Erickson.  So I guess it's been long enough.

Devotion: All Saints

Joseph Crippen, a tenor with the NLC, and also a pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, shared this devotion before our All Saints concert on Sunday, November 3, 2013.

All Saints at Mount Olive is a holy day like no other.  We have, of course, other high holy days – Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, others – but there is something beautiful and holy about All Saints at Mount Olive that is its own joy and peace.  This morning, as I looked out into the congregation I saw the smiling face of David Cherwien, and it was good; it’s felt like a long time he’s been on sabbatical.  He has respected that sabbatical and he’s respected Bill, who’s filling in while he’s gone, and stayed away.  But when I spoke to him after the liturgy, what he said was, “There was nowhere else I could think of where I’d rather be than here today.”  I completely understand.

Devotion: All-Encompassing Saints

In preparation for our All Saints concerts this weekend, this devotion was shared by soprano Christina Myers at rehearsal on October 22, 2013.

Devotion: We Are One

Soprano, Kate Tripoli, shared this devotion about the unbelievable, yet scientifically proven, effects of singing at rehearsal on October 8, 2013.
Chances are that this summer you read about a recently published study on the biological effects of choral singing. I know a lot of us were sharing it on Facebook, and at the time, I said, "I wonder who will be the first person to use this in a devotion." Turns out, it's me. The following excerpts are courtesy of NPR.

DEVOTION: Finding the Center

At our rehearsal on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, alto Eldri Wittkamper shared this devotion with the choir:

DEVOTION: Choral Art

This devotion was shared by Tim Sheie, bass, before rehearsal this past Tuesday, September 24th.

Devotion: A Meditation on Beginnings

As the choir gathers to sing together, at the start of our 28th concert season, alto Jennifer Kelley shares a meditation on beginnings.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;

     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19 ESV

Devotion: A Shared Experience

The following words were spoken prior to the June 24 rehearsal by Sarah Bane, a member of the soprano section.  

+ + +

One of the things I like most about our upcoming tour program is that it’s a straightforward Mass.  Wanting to know more about the history of the Mass, and its function within the Lutheran heritage, I did a little research – merely scratching the surface of what there is to know about “Mass.”

Devotion: Summer Camp

Before each National Lutheran Choir concert, a member or guest of the choir delivers a devotion. The following words were spoken prior to the June 26 rehearsal by Kaye Mills, a member of the alto section.  


The last time I gave a devotion it was probably when I was a camp counselor in college. My favorite devotion was to take the plastic holder of a 6 pack, cut it up to make one long strand of plastic and hang it from a metal hanger. It would be lit on fire over a bowl of water and we would watch the plastic light on fire, melt and drop into the bowl of water. There was conversation about the light with in us and how our light can hit others and ignite their light, but mostly it was just cool to watch and it had elements of a meditative experience.

Devotion: Jesus Christ Yesterday, Today and Forever

Here are the reflections spoken by Susan Palo Cherwien during the National Lutheran Choir's hymn festival on Friday and Sunday, May 3 and 5. Some variant of these reflections will also be part of the hymn festivals performed at Lutheran Summer Music (on Saturday, June 29 @ 7:30pm) and Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (on Monday, July 1 @ 7pm).

Notes from the Tenor Section

The tenors' section leader, Bob Quast, distributed a note to all of the tenors on the eve of the performance of Bach's Mass in b minor (March 21, 2013) to encourage them to open their eyes and ears and their hearts. A soft-spoken leader, Bob packs a punch whenever he has something to say. These words moved us to tears because his "favorite moments" were not about the tenor part but about everyone else. Generous, gracious, great: these are the words that describe the members of our National Lutheran Choir.



Devotion: In the shadow of the Cross

This is the devotion given by Tim Sheie prior to the 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, December 15 at Christ Church Cathedral. Each Christmas time, the National Lutheran Choir make a long day-trip to St Louis, Missouri to give two performances of its Christmas Festival. A little more than 24 hours earlier, news spread that a single gunman had forcibly entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, shot and killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six of their teachers. It is in this context that Tim offered this devotion.


Devotion: Spiritual Literacy

Before each National Lutheran Choir concert, a member or guest of the choir delivers a devotion. The following words were spoken prior to the December 7 4:30 p.m. Christmas Festival by Diane Fleming, widow of our founding director Larry Fleming. The saint she makes reference to in her devotion is Larry's mother who passed on Thanksgiving weekend this year. 


Devotion: Relationships with the saints in our lives

This devotion was shared on October 20th prior to our performance with the Milwaukee Choral Artists at Concordia University-Wisconsin in Mequon WI. Tim Sheie is a long-time member of the bass section.

Well...most of us in the room right now have to admit something - we're choir geeks. It finally dawned on me last week as I boarded a Southwest flight from Denver and the gate agent was scanning boarding passes. As each one was accepted - I recognized the pitch of each of the beeps: B...B...B...

Devotion: Carrying traditions to the next generation

Prior to a tour performance at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, IL, NLC bass Paul Wilson gave a devotion. Portions of the program will be given at a pair of performances in the Twin Cities on November 3 & 4, 2012. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the NLC office at 612.722.2301 or look here.


Devotion: Tim Schmidt - September 18, 2012

Recently as part of a leadership conference Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bank, spoke to us about the importance of storytelling. In an industry that is driven by numbers like banking you may think where does story telling fit in. Richard says it could not be more important now than anytime other in our careers to be able to tell our story.  It is what will help rebuild confidence and faith in the banking profession, a profession that at its core is trust and belief.

The Christian Preamble

The Christian Preamble

In Thanksgiving to God for the gift of life in baptism and for the many blessings which have sustained us; and

In Thanksgiving to God for the gifts of faith and hope through Jesus Christ; and

In Thanksgiving to God for the gifts of nurture and love through the Church where we have shared faith and fellowship,

We now respond…

Devotions - Thank You

This devotion was given by Ryan Luhrs, a member of our choir, prior to the last performance of the 2011-12 Season — a hymn festival, the culminating event of the 2012 Chorus America national conference, at Central Lutheran Church (Minneapolis MN).

I am a bit hesitant to give a devotion because the last time I did, I was later asked – without warning and during a concert – to publicly recall information about Jean Berger’s original last name.  I’m assuming and hoping that won’t happen today.

Since this is likely my only chance to do so, I want to take a minute and thank David and the choir for impact you’ve had in my life, and the past two years, that Sarah and I have been able to share in this experience together.   This choir profoundly influenced my life – and did so even before I joined.

Devotions - Authenticity

Before every rehearsal and performance, a member of the National Lutheran Choir gives a devotion. Paul Wilson (bass-baritone) recently gave this devotion to the choir. This devotion was given before our collaborative concert at King of Kings Lutheran Church (Woodbury) with the vocal ensemble, Cantus. Paul is a former founding member of Cantus.

Our search for authenticity

NLC Devotions

This most recent devotion comes from Ryan Luhrs, a member of our choir, and was given last Sunday. This most recent entry begins an effort to collect and make available regular devotionals from choir members and friends of the choir. Enjoy!